String Quintet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 1, B7
Burghauser catalogue number
Date of composition
6 June 1861 - ? (revision: 1887 (?))
Premiere - date and place
15 December 1921, Prague
Josef Hasek, Jan Bruna, Bohumil Klabik, Josef Tesarek, Bedrich Jaros
Hudebni matice Umelecke besedy, 1943, Prague
Parts / movements
1. Adagio. Allegro ma non troppo
3. Finale. Allegro con brio
approx. 28 min.
The String Quintet in A minor is the work with which Dvorak, then aged 20, officially launched his career as a composer. The fact that the first piece to which he ascribed an opus number adheres to a Classical cyclical form, anticipates a lifelong predisposition towards traditional forms. The three-movement piece, brimming with a myriad of musical ideas, offers a convincing testimony of the composer’s understanding of appropriate instrumentation and the proportionate duration of the individual movements. Despite an obvious tendency towards Classical models (Mozart, Schubert), one cannot overlook clear indications of his distinctive musical style. After its slow introduction, the first movement in sonata form exposes three central themes. The development works almost exclusively with the main subject. The recapitulation is regular in outline, although the individual themes are developed in more detail. Signs of Dvorak’s future compositional style are best identified in the broad cantabile melodies of the second movement. The main subject is first exposed in “Dvorak’s” instrument, the viola, above a rhythmical ostinato accompaniment in the other instruments. The middle section of the movement provides a thematic contrast, after which we see the return of the music from the introductory part. The third movement, also in sonata form, treats three primary themes. The first of these bears a strong resemblance to the main theme of Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor. Dvorak, himself, never heard his opus 1, since it was first performed seventeen years after his death; and many more years would pass before the work was published, in 1943.